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Land in Eden Mills now under stewardship of environmental trust

Cambridge-based rare Charitable Research Reserve gifted nearly 13 acres along Eramosa River east of Guelph
The Eden Mills Mill Pond on the west branch of the Eramosa River, as seen from the viewing area at the south end of the property, nearest Eden Mills, taken during high-water level in the spring of 2023.

The Cambridge-based rare Charitable Research Reserve, along with local landowners and the community of Eden Mills, has completed the transfer of 12.8 acres straddling the west branch of the Eramosa River to the rare land trust.

The property stretches back from the historic Mill Pond and dam, and rare will be responsible for its care and stewardship.

The lands were donated by Charles and Anna Simon, who have owned and taken care of the property for decades. Charles Simon is an architect known as a pioneer in sustainable building design.

The Simons purchased Eden Mills Mill as well as the lands being transferred to rare and renovated the mill to be their home. They spearheaded projects championing sustainability with the backing of their community, including ongoing efforts since 2007 to make Eden Mills carbon neutral. That initiative resulted in improved building methods, renewable carbon-free energy installations, and the planting of 40,000 trees.

“The Simons wanted to ensure that the lands they’d worked to protect would remain protected for the future,” explains rare Planning Ecologist Tom Woodcock. “To do this, they worked to sever the land behind the historic dam and donate it to rare.”

The 12.8-acre property straddles the west branch of the Eramosa River from the historic Mill Pond Dam and features wetlands, a large floodplain, but also some dry forest. The Simons donated the property to rare through the Ecological Gifts Program managed by the Government of Canada.

The Simons were honoured at a community event taking place in Eden Mills on Thursday, to celebrate the land transfer.

The agreement is the culmination of over two years of work, negotiating between the community of Eden Mills, the Township of Guelph-Eramosa, rare, and the outgoing Eden Mills Eramosa River Conservation Association, who have been helping to protect this land for years.

“The Eden Mills Eramosa River Conservation Association was set up in 1990 as a charitable organization to preserve the river ecosystem health and publicly accessible natural areas of Eden Mills,” says Tom.

“This grassroots effort continued while everyone worked on a more permanent solution. The event taking place this Thursday represents a passing of the torch between EMERCA and rare. We’ll oversee the health and environmental stewardship of these lands from this point on, with the help of the many volunteers and supporters who helped the EMERCA in the past.”

The property does not feature any trails. However, visitors will be able to appreciate the pond at the viewing and interpretive area at its south end.

“The Simons, as well as the community of Eden Mills have been tremendous stewards of the land for the past few decades,” says rare Executive Director Stephanie Sobek-Swant. “The donation of these lands to rare will honour this relationship with the land. We are humbled by what is being placed in our trust, and we will ensure that these lands will remain protected.”

The rare Charitable Research Reserve is a charitable urban land-trust stewarding over 1,200 acres of environmentally sensitive lands across eight properties in Waterloo Region and Wellington County while engaging the community to build support for understanding and protecting these lands.

The reserve maintains over 12 kilometres of trails free and open to the public and runs research and education programs to build an appreciation of these lands and their importance to the health and wellbeing of the surrounding community and generations to follow.